Venerable Samdech Preah Akka Moha Sanghareacheatepdei Tep Vong, Samdech Preah Akka Moha Sanghareach of the Kingdom of Cambodia,
Venerable Samdech Monks, Senior and Junior Monks, Clergymen and Clergywomen,
Excellencies, Neak Ouknha, Lok Chum Teav, Ladies and Gentlemen and National and International Guests!
Today, I’m truly pleased to be here once again with Venerable Samdech Monks, Venerable Senior and Junior Monks, Excellencies, Lok Chum Teav, Ladies and Gentlemen, especially clergymen and clergywomen during the “Conversation with the 10th – 16th Batch of Clergymen and Clergywomen and the Opening of the Congress of the Khmer Clergy Association”. Without doubt, the capacities of the clergymen and clergywomen have been gradually expanded and strengthened, in particular, today is the closing of the training course on the roles and practices of the clergymen and clergywomen in Khmer tradition and custom, from 10th batch to 16th batch that consists of 3,777 clergymen and clergywomen. On behalf of the Royal Government, I would like to commend the clergymen and clergywomen for having successfully completed this important training course. This attest to the effort of all clergymen and clergywomen to learn more with the spirit of perseverance and determination and also the determined will of all 37 teachers with experiences and knowledge from the Ministry of Cults and Religion, the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts and the Ministry of Information to train, transfer knowledge to further enhance the capacities of clergymen and clergywomen to achieve such great result.
Overall, this work enables us to conserve and develop the tradition, custom, culture, civilization and long-lasting solidarity of our ancestors. These assets and heritage are the indispensible and priceless social capital for building Cambodia with strongly bonded cells, with citizens who are knowledgeable about the tradition and custom, live in dignity and harmony, and with sustained development and prosperity.
Truly, the Kingdom of Cambodia is an ancient nation in the South East Asia and has rich culture, tradition, custom and civilization. Thus, there are many procedures in all activities of the Khmer culture, civilization, tradition and custom that contain deep meaning. The conducts of each ceremony generally embed educational message with deep philosophy and close link to daily activities of the people. In general, either Buddhist or traditional ceremonies, there needs to be knowledgeable guide to ensure proper and uniform conducts of those ceremonies, and those guides are called “Achar (Clergymen and Clergywomen)”. In short, Achar leads, guides, teaches and demonstrates the execution of ceremonies, and they are a respectable figure for everyone. Hence, Achar must be able to explain to other people about right and wrong, and deeply knowledgeable about both real and Buddhist worlds before they can lead proper execution of ceremonies according to Khmer tradition and custom. In this regard, clergymen and clergywomen as leaders of ceremonies must follow the traditional procedures/rules left by our ancestors, and the conducts must be consistent from one region to another to avoid differences in the execution of ceremonies caused by wrong execution of the traditional rules/procedures and to prevent widespread copy of those wrong practices.
In this spirit, I have raised that if we do not think carefully, we can come to a conclusion that Achar Crisis is a small issue, but the magnitude of such crisis is enormous as the culture, tradition and custom are the identity of a nation as one of our old proverbs goes: “Culture Vanishes, Nation Dies; Culture Shines, Nation Prospers”. In this regard, our Khmer ancestors have left priceless heritages of culture, tradition and custom that have gained global admiration and recognition about the masterpieces of Khmer, for instance, Angkor Wat Temple and other temples across the country. Therefore, failure to follow the traditional rules/procedures in ceremonies can ruin the value of our national identity. In this connection, I would like to call on clergymen and clergywomen to deepen your knowledge and master the rules/procedures and essence stated in ancient scriptures to ensure proper conducts according to ancient rules/procedures, and the protection of our national identity.
I am of the view that the pride of all these achievements does not belong only to clergymen and clergywomen, but the whole society as knowledgeable clergymen and clergywomen who are well versed in traditional rules/procedures have been trained to take part in social development, in various ceremonies by conserving our rich culture and national identity. Taking this opportunity, I would like to commend the Ministry of Cults and Religion for effort to make new progresses contribute to human resources development and promotion of the culture, particularly knowledge sharing, to ensure proper conduct of ceremonies, with the active participation, attentive spirit and high responsibility from teachers and the management that result in such great achievement.
Today, we all are congratulating the new achievement of human resources, i.e. clergymen and clergywomen, whose main roles are to lead and guide conduct of rituals according to the tradition, custom of our ancient Khmer ancestors. Looking back to more 30 years ago, I believe that all participants still remember the Pol Pot Regime that lasted 3 years 8 months and 20 days, during which our religious beliefs, traditions, custom and culture were almost completely wiped out. During that period, though the Khmer Rouge took away all of our rights, the spirit to worship Buddhism, to protect the tradition, custom, and culture was always with us, in the heart of every Cambodian citizen. Being unable to stand the daily cruel and inhumane activities of the Pol Pot regime, Cambodians in the whole nation stood up to struggle and fight by sacrificing their flesh and blood under the right leadership of the Cambodian People’s Party in the cause of liberating the nation and the people, and achieved success on 7 January 1979. From this historic victory, our Buddhism, custom, tradition, culture, civilization, and other religions in Cambodia resurrected at the same time, and other ceremonial activities were restored but remained fragmented.
In the spirit of respect and the will to promote our Buddhism, custom, tradition, culture and civilization of the nation and with the hope for the bright future after the liberation day, our people have put their utmost effort physically and mentally in mobilizing the remaining resources to gradually build the economic, social, cultural and religious foundation from the bare hand along with the least remained educated people. In those circumstances, Buddhism, culture, tradition and custom have gradually been revitalized. Traditional ceremonies were restored but remained inconsistent since scriptures and rules/procedures had been destroyed. In some places, the conduct of traditional ceremonies was based on habits or their respective understanding. Thus, the way to properly conduct ceremonies was unclear that require direction through training on the roles and functions of the clergymen-clergywomen in the Khmer tradition and custom, and this will not only ensure consistent and proper conduct of wedding and other ceremonies, but also make the celebration, religious function and other traditional ceremonies clearly reveal our national identity according to the philosophy of our ancestors.
In the sense to promote the preservation and development of the national culture, and the protection and continuity of the cultural heritage, the Royal Government has constantly paid attention to this work. In particular, the Royal Government has continued to conserve the region of national heritages and temples in order to make Cambodia a disseminating center of cultural arts, visual arts, sculpture arts, and craft arts on the international arena through building the awareness among the people to better understand the value of culture, tradition, and Khmer custom, which is the national identity, and jointly conserve, uphold and develop the national culture to prevent the influx of some negative culture from other countries. At the same time, the Royal Government respects human rights and freedom to religion, promotes Buddhism which is the state religion, continues to strengthen and expand all levels of Buddhism schools, and promotes publication and dissemination of scriptures, religious rules/procedures and so on. Along with that, we have also created favorable conditions for the activities of other religions and other beliefs, based on the principle of strengthening the harmonization between religious followers in all sects of religions, eliminating discrimination among different religious followers to prevent the use of religion as business that may cause the religious crisis, and transform the religious potential into the catalyst for social-economic development, as well as strengthening peace and solidarity, maintaining national custom, and improving moral value.
Stemming from this political will and above efforts, considerable achievements have been realized for the country; especially the successful transformation Cambodia into a country with equal footing with other countries in the region and the world. In is clear that in the Buddhism sector, we have started from bare hand in the situation that there were only 7 Buddhist monks nationwide and up to now there are the total number of 53,257 monks, and 4,553 pagodas. The pagodas of Buddhism have been playing significant roles in educating and upgrading the social morality. This achievement has reflected that the Royal Government has been paying high attention to the implementation of all means to ensure the preservation and development of culture, tradition, custom, which are our national identity to be more prosperous and sustainable to contribute to the improvement of our socio-economic development.
In this spirit, as a Buddhist and on behalf of the Royal Government, I would like to contribute a number of recommendations in order to solidly strengthen our Khmer practice of tradition and custom according to the current of influx of the globalization and development in all sectors as follows:
First: the Ministry of Cults and Religious Affairs must continue the cooperation with related ministries-institutions to open more training courses on the roles and functions of the clergymen-clergywomen in our Khmer tradition in order to make sure that this orientation objective will be spread throughout the country. At the same time, the Ministry of Cults and Religious Affairs must cooperate with the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, and the Ministry of Information in order to create documentaries about various religious and traditional ceremonies for public audience and national archives. Moreover, attention should be paid to the research and compilation of documents, rules/procedures, the process of wedding and other festivals to make sure they are published comprehensively, and integrated those documents into the curriculum of the Buddhism schools in all levels.
Second: the Ministry of Cults and Religious Affairs must organize an annual gathering in order to invite all clergymen, clergywomen of the established association of Khmer Clergymen-Clergywomen to share views and experiences as well as listen to the requests of the people to study, consult, and seek appropriate solution and response to those requests.
Third: the Clergymen-Clergywomen must have solidarity and good relation with the Pagoda Commissions, Head Monks of Pagodas, and the local authorities without nepotism and social class discrimination in order to fulfill the proper role as leaders of religious or traditional ceremonies, teachers, demonstrators, and respectful figures. At the same time, all clergymen-clergywomen must abide by state regulations, traditional rules/procedures in order to properly lead the religious or traditional ceremonies.
Fourth: the clergymen-clergywomen must continue to strengthen their knowledge by carrying out further research on the rules/procedures of religious or traditional ceremonies in order to contribute to the construction of principal documents of the Ministry of Cults and Religious Affairs to be more solid. On the other hand, since the clergymen-clergywomen have played roles as the seniors in the capital city, provinces/town, districts/khan, commune, village in their respective communities, all clergymen-clergywomen must be the model in respecting the Buddhism, tradition, morality, virtue by preventing every acts of domestic violence in contributing to the socio-economic development in order to be a role model for our youth in the next generation.
In this regard, although we have had tremendous opportunities in front of us, I would like to request all colleagues and all clergymen-clergywomen to effectively implement the concepts raised in this meeting to achieve the fruitful result for our Cambodian society as a whole. In addition, I would like to add that Cambodia will soon hold a general election on 28 July 2013. To strengthen democracy, respect of basic rights of all Cambodian people, and in order to ensure that the election process is free and just and in the environment of peace, public safety and social and political stability during and after the election period, I would like to request all compatriots especially all clergymen-clergywomen to go to vote and maintain dignity and national solidarity of our nation.
Before ending, I would like to, one again, thank the management and officials of the Ministry of Cults and Religious Affairs, Venerable Monks of the Kingdom of Cambodia, clergy trainers and relevant ministries-institutions for the support to promote the development of clergy resources, aiming to sustain Khmer culture and tradition for the general development in Cambodia and for the interest of our young generation.
At this end, along with the Declaration to Recognize the 10th – 16th Batch of Clergymen-Clergywomen, and the Opening of Khmer Clergymen-Clergywomen Association Conference now, I would like to wish Venerable Samdech Preah Akka Moha Sanghareacheatepdei, Venerable Samdech Preah Apiserei Sokunthea Moha Sanghareacheatepdei, Venerable Samdech Monks, Venerable Senior and Junior Monks, Excellencies, Neak Ouknha, Lok Chum Teav, Ladies and Gentlemen, Clergymen and Clergywomen four gems of Buddhist blessings: Longevity, Nobility, Healthiness, and Strength./.